I recently finished the book Covert Cows and Chick-Fil-A, written by Steve Robinson. While this is not a book review podcast there were so many good nuggets, pun intended, of business advice that I needed to share some takeaways here on the podcast.
If you’re new here, welcome to The Digital Lounge podcast. I’m your host Jess. I help health and wellness coaches get better clients through strategic websites and good content. I will admit, I am a self professed Chick-fil-A fanatic or, as the Chick-fil-A marketing team would call me, I’m a raving fan.
I was really excited when I heard about this new book from Chick-fil-A’s former Chief Marketing Officer Steve Robinson. I think it’s a really great blend of hearing Steve’s story, the Chick-fil-A story, and some business insight.
As Steve noted in the book Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, knew a successful business builds a brand on relationships, relevance and reputation.
Truett was intentional about building relationships with, not only customers, but his employees as well. He was very intentional about staying relevant and thinking about where he built his first restaurant, which was on a busy interstate across from a Ford assembly plant and near the Atlanta airport.
As a health and wellness coach you should think about relationships you can build in your business. First and foremost with your clients. My clients know that they can reach out to me with questions. Honestly, I sometimes reach out to them with questions. Shout out to Kristen, Katie, and Aileen who have given me feedback on new ideas and just brainstorming with me several times over the last few years. My clients know, or should know, that they are not just a transaction with me.
As a coach you also need to stay relevant. Where does your audience like to consume content? Where is there a gap to fill? This might look like finally showing up consistently on Instagram’s stories or starting a YouTube channel to educate people about intuitive eating. Building authority through your content can also help your reputation.
Speaking of content, Truett understood the importance of a consistent habitual marketing investment.
Early on in the Chick-fil-A journey, when Chick-fil-A was only found inside malls, they gave away free samples as you walked by. They gave these samples away to build more visibility because no one knew who they were. They also gave away Be Our Guest cards, which was a coupon for a free sandwich. No strings attached, no need to buy something else in order to get the free sandwich. He told his operators to give the samples and the cards away consistently so that people became familiar with the product and had a good experience with the brand. Even if it was just a small gesture like the card.
Now this is not to say that you need to give away free training sessions or free nutrition consultations. I’m not a fan of giving away one-to-one services because our time is valuable. But instead of giving away services this, again, is where content comes into play. Sharing little nuggets of wisdom, pun intended again, can be the consistent habitual marketing investment that Truett knew was important. Content gets you in front of new clients. It helps build connection.
When done consistently keeps you top of mind, which is great because something that Steve learned and shared in the book was the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind, out of business.”
He actually learned this while working for Six Flags. Where he worked before Chick-fil-A. They wanted to increase ticket sales from people who just walk up and buy tickets at the Six Flags gate because they were full price compared to getting a slight discount if you buy ahead of time online. But as they were brainstorming and trying to figure out how to make it so that families felt like they had to come to the park today, a light bulb went off. They realized instead of just promoting a rollercoaster or a new ride they needed to focus on the real reason people came. The relational time and memories they’re making with their family.
I loved this part of the story for two reasons. First I thought it was interesting that even though business was great they looked at what was most profitable, day-of tickets, and worked to increase that. Instead of just saying, “How can we improve overall ticket sales?” They looked at a very specific offer.
You can do this in your own business too. If your outdoor bootcamps aren’t the most profitable you could spend more time marketing your one-to-one program more. This doesn’t mean you have to stop offering the outdoor bootcamps, it just means that you focus your marketing on something else for a little bit.
I do this in my own business. I can design logos. I love to design books for authors and I love websites, but websites are also the most profitable for me. I spend more time talking about that.
The second reason I love this story is because it’s a great reminder of what we all need to focus on in our business. This is what it means when people say, “Focus on the benefits not the features.” A rollercoaster is just a feature of Six Flags but the benefit is family time and memories.
When we focus on talking about the benefits and about the after, that people will experience, people are more willing to invest. The main reason why features don’t sell is because customers don’t care about them. Yeah they might use a list of features to decide between two similar products or programs but the features won’t make the customer want to buy. The product or service is not the end but the means to an end. People don’t want to buy recipe e-books. They want to have their friends and family over for dinner.
While we’re talking about sales lets move on to the next lesson from the book, coupons are an instant fix but they don’t actually fix.
Chick-fil-A was trying to build more brand awareness so they were sending coupons via direct mail, like most fast food restaurants. But based on a recommendation from Steve himself they distributed one particular coupon too much in newspapers. It ended up costing Chick-fil-A two million dollars because they gave away too many coupons.
Steve pointed out three lessons from this experience. Coupons undermine the value of your brand and tell customers that your product isn’t worth full price. Coupons are a crap shoot because you can’t control the outcome, the pace or the quantity of results. Lastly, coupons made Chick-fil-A look like all of the other brands.
I think about this every time I go into Old Navy, which I will admit is one of my favorite stores. If I see something I want and it’s not on sale most of the time I end up not getting it because I know it’ll be on sale eventually. Also probably because I don’t really need to buy it.
When you constantly run sales on your services you’re training people that your services aren’t worth their full price. Instead of sales some online business owners will also do bonuses. Like if you hire me for a 60 minute nutrition consultation, this week only, then you will also get this $29 ebook as a bonus or alternatively you can trim a service. For example, I recently offered website audits that I always offer but this time there were limitations on what was included. Like how much I was actually going to audit. So it cost less than my typical website audit.
As business owners we have to pay attention to how customers use our products and services.
At one point Chick-fil-A hired a new nutrition and product expert who went to visit some different Chick-fil-A locations and do some research. He saw that parents were cutting their sandwiches up into small pieces for the kids. That prompted him to come back to headquarters with a new idea and that’s when they developed Chick-fil-A nuggets.
This is why it’s important to get feedback from our clients and customers. If you have a service or a product that’s not selling you need to look at why. By all means it could be the marketing, it could be unclear messaging, it could be the pricing, but it also might not be exactly what your audience needs. Is there a part of your health coaching program that people really seem to love more than anything else? Maybe it’s worth pulling that piece out as a single offer.
Now most fast food restaurants have their marketing done by headquarters but with Chick-fil-A operators provide at least 80% of finances for marketing. This allows the home office, the headquarters, to focus on what they do best. Like focusing on hospitality, sponsorships, store design, customer interface experience, apparel and so on.
When Steve pointed out that the home office was able to focus on these other things it reminded me about how we, as business owners, can also outsource. You could spend three months trying to redo your website or you could outsource it and spend time with your clients instead, doing the thing you love. You could handle all the admin work in your business or you could outsource some of it so you don’t feel like you’re being run ragged week after week. When we offload tasks we get to spend more time doing the fun stuff, whether that means the one-to-one client kind of fun stuff or the fun stuff with our family and friends. You don’t have to do everything.
Steve also mentioned in the book, you don’t have to do the expected either.
Shoestring french fries were what fast food restaurants did back then. It’s what customers expected but they took a chance and Chick-fil-A did in-store testing. It turns out waffle fries were even more popular. Even better, customers were even willing to pay more for them.
In your business have you looked at what your clients and customers think about an idea? Have you asked them? Have you asked them if this would help make your brand more valuable? That is what matters, but part of being more valuable also means you have to deliver consistently.
Chick-fil-A has a system for training and operations. That helps create a consistent brand experience, but in the beginning there were still some outliers who weren’t delivering consistently.
That’s when the team realized that there was no point in building more restaurants if they couldn’t deliver consistently in every location, because without that consistent product and experience they would not be a brand.
In our world, as online business owners, I think this is super important. This might be my favorite takeaway from the whole book. We can’t be offering things and doing things half way. I think I’ve mentioned, before on this podcast, that I have adjusted services before or even gotten rid of services. I remember the last time I was getting rid of a service I mentioned it to my husband. He asked me, “Well why don’t you try to make it better instead of getting rid of it?”
A few weeks ago I was brainstorming with my husband about my business. While I have some passive income products, they’re not a major component of my business. I told my husband, “I could join this group or buy this thing. Maybe those would help me learn how to increase my passive income better.” He said, “But your services are what sell the easiest and the most. They’re also the most profitable. Why don’t you double down on your services?” I was like, “Well!” Don’t get me wrong, I love working with clients. I don’t want to turn my business into a digital product only type of business. I realized maybe it was time to double down on my services.
Fine tuning my services and my client experience will always be an evolving thing in my business, but it’s been a little while since I had taken a really hard look at what I was doing for my clients. So I made some changes. Now don’t worry, I still do web design, and logos, and books. I didn’t get rid of anything during this process. I just added to what I do to help my clients even better. While we’re talking about clients let flip the script for a little bit. I want to talk about being the best client. Chick-fil-A new that they didn’t have the level of creativity and skill necessary to make their brand a major player in the market without some help. They started searching for a creative agency to come up with a marketing campaign. Part of that process was also asking what the agencies would expect of Chick-fil-A.
They literally told the agencies that they knew they wouldn’t be the agencies biggest client but they wanted to be their best client.
This alone made me love Chick-fil-A 10 times more. I wholeheartedly believe that companies need to deliver good product and have a good experience, whether it’s Chick-fil-A, or you, or me, or the auto shop that changes the oil in our cars, but it takes two to tango.
You want to know what the agency told Chick-fil-A? They said to be the best client you need to respect the work and the people who do the work. I said, “A-freaking-men.” I will probably do a whole podcast episode on this soon because it’s something I have a lot of thoughts about, after working with clients for eight years. As the marketing agency told Chick-fil-A, they may not get it perfect every time, and I know I won’t get it perfect every time either, but respect the work and the people doing the work.
I don’t know how to fix a toilet so I’m not going to tell a plumber to use this tool and that type of screw because when I hire someone, whether it’s to fix the toilet, or to write copy, or whatever else, it’s because I trust that they know what they’re doing. I don’t believe for a single second that I know how to write better copy than them. I might ask them to change a word here or there, if it’s kind of weird and I don’t think I’d say it, but I’m not going to tell them to rearrange paragraphs.
Now I’ll get off my client soapbox for now and wrap up with the three virtues of advertising that were mentioned in the book. It needs to be engaging because it needs to grab people’s attention. It needs to be endearing, like how people look forward to and love seeing the cows at Chick-fil-A. It needs to be enduring, where it can have multiple creative executions so you’re not reinventing the wheel over and over again.
If you build a great brand three good outcomes occur. People will come more often. They’ll pay full price. They’ll tell others about their experience. That’s the power of a good brand. The power of being yourself and the power of showing up consistently.
I hope you take some time to think about the things I talked about today. How you can use it to make your business better. If you have any questions I’d love for you to reach out to me on Instagram. I will see you all next week.